Saturday, August 4, 2012

Responding to the Arrested development, spiritually speaking:

How do you respond to your co-workers, family members, or friends on Facebook who throw around Scriptures & ask for prayers, but don't have church family?  Let me narrow the question even further: How do you feel about people who don't go to church, do not seem to live a "very Christian life" but act like they have a great relationship with God?

We've all had friends "name-drop" with God before.  Oh, simple phrases like, "Pray for me, I'm going through _______, but I know the Big Man upstairs will take care of me."  Or, they toss out a passage from the Bible that doesn't really fit the situation everyone is talking about, but they want to seem like they are Biblically literate.

Yet, these people haven't darkened the doorway of any church in quite a while, if ever.  They live with someone they aren't married to, wear crosses around their neck over their Metallica tee-shirts, quote Scriptures and hit the local watering-hole on a weekly basis.   Does this frustrate you?  Seem hypocritical?  Do you look down on them?

Here's what I think, and I've thought quite a bit about people who are suffering from a spirituality Arrested-developmental faith:
     First of all, we need to make sure we aren't being judgmental.  Who are we to question another person's relationship with God?  Some people don't attend Sunday services at a "church" because they've been burned by toxic leadership or quaky church members.  There are people who don't feel they fit in at a typical church, and it's painful to them, yet they still want to express their faith.  And you may say, we know a tree by the fruit it bears... Jesus also said in the same chapter, get the log out of your own eye.

I'd add here too, check your motivations for your righteous-indignation.  Are you a little jealous of the freewheeling, carefree lifestyle of the people you are scrutinizing????  So, for starters let's give people the benefit of the doubt that they long to know God too, before we hit them over the head with our Bible, or assign them a seat in Hell.

     Secondly, we shouldn't pass up opportunities to encourage these distant-people in our lives, to reengage with the people of God.  To find a church home.  To worship with others. Why?  It's impossible to practice the Christian faith solo.  One major example: Communion, the Lord's Supper or the Eucharist, whichever name you label it with, it is a ritual you can't practice alone.  IT takes a community of faithful believers to experience the breaking of bread.

It's also impossible to grow spiritually on your own.  It can't happen; increasing Biblical knowledge or the activation of the practical daily walk can't happen on our own.  We need people to sharpen us, to challenge us, to nurture us, to encourage us.  We are a body, that's the metaphor Scripture designated.  An amputated limb won't survive.  Period.

     Third and finally (Nice three points, huh?) How about instead of letting these seemingly less mature, quasi-believers frustrate us, how about we lift them in prayer?  Yes, lift these spiritually-disenfranchised people in prayer.  We have more of these people in need of our prayers than in need of our disapproval.  Jesus embraced the marginal, He ate with them, He loved them, it cost Him His life too.   

And, by the way, in case you didn't know, I grew up in an arrested developmental home, spiritually speaking.  We didn't attend church services, not even at Christmas or Easter.  I heard plenty of Scriptures quoted, some in context, many out of context.  I'm glad we were accepted, when as adults Tammy and I finally got our butts out of bed on Sunday mornings & took our kids to Church.  I wonder where we'd be today if... well never mind.  Be patient with others; you never know what God has in store for them.


Judah and Michelle said...

I meet with a group of men almost every Wednesday morning. One man in particular has gained a level of respect from me that I reserve for very few men. He reads his bible everyday, prays continuously, and speaks with an authority of the scripture that no man I know can compete with. I have brought personal issues to him for prayer, because I truly believe he has a connection with God that many of us only wish we had.

When I first met him, I would jokingly "debate" him about why he doesn't attend church somewhere. He would make an outstanding elder, deacon, etc. He would only shake his head, and say something to the effect of, "been there. done that."

As a scientist, I see the world from a science perspective. He and I disagree on a lot of how the world came into be. He doesn't fully understand my concepts, but I know that I will not be condemned by my "out there" beliefs. If anything, he respects that I use my brain to try to understand, rather than merely accepting what someone says. At the same time, I respect his opinions and beliefs, and recognize they are primarily through his experience in this world and his studies of the scriptures. I guess what I am trying to say is that he teaches me and I teach him....

I see nowhere in the bible that requires disciples of Christ to be a member of a corporate body somewhere that meets Sundays, Wednesdays, Saturday evenings, Thursdays, etc. I believe one can gather with others to discuss scripture, talk of how Jesus worked in their lives over the last week, come together as a unified body to impact a local community, and share a meal together.

Over the last 4 years, I have learned quite a bit about what corporate church should not be about. But I have also learned what getting together with other Christians on regular basis means to. I prefer the latter over the former.

Just my thoughts


Craig Cottongim said...

Judah, I'm not into the institutional, bureaucratically handicapped church either. Still, we can't grow spiritually in isolation. There's no way random happen-chance sporadic impromptu conversations about the Bible or Jesus will develop us. Discipleship is at the core of our faith, and that takes persistence & plenty of time together.

I too have learned what the corporate church shouldn't be about, over the past several years. So, I'm with you on the idea that getting together with others isn't the same as the ridged structure some people present as the church.

Judah and Michelle said...

I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume you don't think that the Thursday morning breakfasts at the diner are "random happen-chance sporadic impromptu conversations" :). For me personally, those gatherings are usually more uplifting than "darkening the doorway of any church" (excellently well put btw). But, that is me. I am currently not getting that in corporate church. I spend most of my week listening to 3 or 4 speakers via podcast, reading blogs (yours in particular :)), reading numerous journal articles, trying desperately to relate events in my kids' lives to something biblical, and fellowshipping with other somewhat like-minded men. Going to the church building for corporate worship does not fall into the top 5 regarding how I am currently "building up my faith."

However, for a lot of worshipers that I know, Sunday morning worship is very important to them. I respect my older generation for their discipline of attendance. I can appreciate a young family, new to Christianity, wanting to bring their children to church because they don't know how to teach them about God. Corporate church has its place for a lot of people. I am ok with that.

I really think Christians do Christianity a disservice when they focus so much on Sunday. It would be great if we could get the message out that the Good News is about doing everything for the glory of God and the benefit of others in every decision you make. If we could somehow get people to think "is this going to glorify God or benefit someone?" before they made a decision....can you imagine what the world would be like?!?! If we could get them to think that way FIRST, then we could go, "oh by the way, we like to get together each Sunday, sing some songs to God, study part of the bible to lift you up for the coming week, and just hang out together." How awesome would that be?!?

Craig Cottongim said...

Judah, I do agree with you on the validity of a Thursday breakfast meeting. I do not think it has to be an either/or situation though.

We had an incredible team of small group leaders and members at the Church I served in Illinois. We all met for lunch on Mondays in this small coffeehouse, simply to pray and brainstorm and enjoy fellowship. Sometimes I feel those were my most fruitful days in ministry.